Some saw the new squad as an extra carrot to dangle in front of developing players in order to keep them in the country and groom them for greater things.
Others questioned the watering-down of the All Blacks brand – which already includes the national side, the Maori All Blacks and the All Blacks Sevens sides – and whether the new team was simply a commercial exercise that will also prevent foreign sides from benefitting from NZ-produced players.
The reality likely falls somewhere in the middle.
Absolutely, the new All Blacks XV will generate revenue growth for NZR – but it’s difficult to argue that’s a bad thing, at least from New Zealand’s point of view.
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And there’s no question that a new squad will help give players that are not quite ready for the big leagues the taste of international rugby.
The bigger concern, especially from non-New Zealanders, is how the new side could affect players that leave NZ but still want to play international football for another national side which they qualify for.
Each national union can nominate a second side to capture player eligibility. For some years, New Zealand operated a New Zealand A side (which later was rebranded to the Junior All Blacks) which would tie players to NZ for the international game. That side hasn’t played a fixture in over 10 years.
The new All Blacks XV will likely replace the Junior All Blacks as New Zealand’s second team and capture players’ eligibility in the future – which could harm Pacific Island and other foreign nations.
PACIFIC ISLAND eligible players… BEWARE!
playing for this second-tier New Zealand side or “NZ Barbarian” team will rule you out from ever playing for Samoa ?? Tonga ?? or Fiji ??https://t.co/kVPn8ze9r4
— PacificRugbyWelfare (@pacificwelfare) March 10, 2020
RugbyPass understands, however, that the new side won’t tie players to New Zealand – at least in 2020.
Under the World Rugby regulations, a nation can, on an annual basis, change their second nominated side. The NZR have not elected to make this change – at least for 2020 – which means that any players who represent the All Blacks XV this season will still be able to play for a foreign nation in the future.
Whether this is intentional on NZR’s behalf or the union simply ran out of time to make the change is unknown. It’s also unknown whether the All Blacks XV will become New Zealand’s next senior representative team in the future or if the (effectively non-existent) Junior All Blacks will continue to hold that mantle.
This will come as a relief to many around the world as it will mean players who never quite reach the heights of running out for the All Blacks (but still come agonisingly close) will still have the opportunity to play for another national side down the line.
WATCH: Check out all of the incredible action coming up in March on RugbyPass
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